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home : sports : regional December 17, 2014

Dunklee Narrowly Misses Medal
United States' Susan Dunklee competes during the women's biathlon 7.5k sprint, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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United States' Susan Dunklee competes during the women's biathlon 7.5k sprint, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Susan Dunklee posted the best 7.5 kilometer sprint finish ever for an American female biathlete on Sunday in her Olympic debut. With a time of 21.48, she came in 14th place and tied Joan Smith for the best individual Olympic finish by a US woman.

The Barton native and St. Johnsbury Academy graduate came within a centimeter of winning a medal.

Dunklee narrowly missed a single target -- after knocking down nine in a row. The miss forced her to take a penalty lap, which added 23 seconds to her time. Silver medalist Olga Vilukhina beat Dunklee by 22 seconds.

Only three athletes skied the final lap faster than Dunklee.

Dunklee was 41.5 back from Anastasiya Kuzima, who won back-to-back Olympic championship titles in the event with a time of 21:06.8 and clean shooting. The silver went to Vilukhina, of Russia in 21:26.7/+0, while Ukraine's Vita Semerenko won the bronze with a 21:28.5/+0.

"I had really strong skiing today," said Dunklee. "I feel like I'm peaking at the right time. Prone felt spot on. In standing it felt like I had it after I took that fifth shot, so that was a little heartbreaking, but I was able to laugh at myself and keep going."

Sara Studebaker (Boise, Idaho) placed 44th, Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) was 53rd and Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.) was 65th.


"I'm really happy with how I was skiing, and I'm pretty happy with my first shooting with only one miss, but I had three missed in standing, which is too many for this competitive field," said Dreissigacker.

Dunklee, Studebaker and Cook qualified to race in Tuesday's 10k pursuit. Dunklee's 14th place finish becomes her starting position for Tuesday, a position that US Biathlon President Max Cobb called a "terrific setup."

Fellow Olympian Ida Sargent of Barton is set to make her Olympic debut on Tuesday in the cross country freestyle sprint.

BODE: Lowering his head, then crouching in a corner, Bode Miller lingered in the finish area after his slower-than-expected Olympic downhill run, contemplating where things might have gone wrong.

Most everyone, Miller included, thought he was the man to beat entering Sunday's race.

Most everyone, the 36-year-old American included, thought he had a realistic shot at becoming the oldest Alpine gold medalist in Winter Games history.

Didn't even come close. Failing to produce the sort of near-perfect performance he came up with in practice, Miller finished eighth in the downhill, more than a half-second slower than champion Matthias Mayer of Austria.

"This can be a tough one to swallow today, having skied so well in the training runs, and then come in and be way out of the medals," said Miller, who was born in New Hampshire and now is based in California.

"But I think I skied really well, honestly. I was super-aggressive," he added. "The conditions didn't favor me today, but I think, all things considered, I skied really well."

Not nearly well enough. Still, Miller only would concede that he made "a few little mistakes the whole way down, but nothing that really should have cost me much time."

He had the fastest times on two of the three training days, when the sky was blue and sunlight draped the snow. On Sunday, a cloud cover made it tougher to see, and Miller pointed to that as a key factor.

"I don't have as much tolerance for not being able to see the snow. I need to know where the snow is," Miller explained. "The beginning of the turn, middle of the turn, I need to know where the little bumps are, because I'm right on the edge."

In addition to the lower visibility, he said the snow in the middle of the course was softer when he raced as the 15th starter than when Mayer was the 11th man down the hill.

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